13 year old Billy leaves home one evening in late October, because after enduring it for five years, he cannot take another moment watching his mother bullied and abused by her controlling boyfriend. Fortunately he has found the perfect hideaway, an ivy-festooned “pillbox”, a relic from world war 2, in a nearby graveyard. How long can he last there without discovery, and as his Mum appeals publicly for his safe return, how can he ever go back?
I read Pam Smy’s Thornhill last year. I was initially reluctant to read it because I prefer text to graphic novels, and the idea of a story where half of it is told in pictures didn’t appeal to me. Until I read it and was blown away by how skilfully the author tells an emotional and heart-breaking story through a mix of elegant prose and beautiful illustrations. Hence I eagerly looked forward to reading The Hideaway.
The beautiful illustrations in The Hideaway, unlike Thornhill, do not tell much of the story but they add incredible atmosphere and reinforce the emotional impact. The Hideaway deals with a weighty topic, domestic abuse, and particularly its impact on kids, in an understated and compelling way. From Billy’s turmoil to his mother’s agony, to the kind neighbours and the caring police sergeant, the characters are wonderfully depicted as story unfolds. Told through seemingly spare language, there is a richness and complexity to the story and characters, that totally immerses the reader in this emotional tale.
The speculative element is very light and very nice; the book after all is dedicated to those who long to be reunited with those they have lost. The domestic situation is all too believable, the police, the neighbours and the search realistic, and the setting atmospheric and appealing. A touch of magic in the graveyard and a pinch of serendipity giving a hopeful future for Billy makes this a suitable middle grade book and a powerful emotional read for all ages.
Highly recommended ten out of ten diamonds for this wonderful book.